Every Solution Architect knows that the key to success is a competent set of skills. But what are those skills, exactly, and which ones should you focus on? What does it take to be successful in this field? In our latest blog post, we outline a comprehensive list of Solution Architect competences. Read on to learn more!
“Empathy is a key competence for any Solution Architect. You need to understand and share the feelings of others in order to be successful in this field. When you’re working with clients, you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their needs. You should also be capable of working well with other team members, even if you don’t agree with them. If you focus on the technical aspect and don’t have enough people skills, you are bound to run into obstacles. Being able to communicate effectively is essential in this profession!
2. Analytical thinking
As a Solution Architect, you need to be able to analyse the requirements and identify patterns. This will help you to understand the scope of your clients’ problems and manage their expectations. You can compare it to buying a new car: you may dream of having a Ferrari, but if your budget only allows for a more modest car, you will need to adapt your wishes.
Besides analysing requirements and managing expectations, you also require analytical thinking to understand the technical aspects of a project. Having a broad understanding of the often many technologies means you can elaborate on the trade-offs in your architectural advice. Well-documented trade-offs help the client to make informed decisions in their project.
3. Problem-solving capability
Solution Architects need to be able to solve problems effectively. This includes identifying the root cause of an issue and coming up with a suitable solution. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. When coming up with those solutions, it’s important not to focus too quick on the technical aspect of the problem. Our Solution Architects like to use the following approach: people over process over technology.
First, you need to research the stakeholders involved and their added value within the organisation. Then, you can analyse how their collaboration can be best organised in a process. Sometimes the issue is not technical at all, but rather a lack of organisation, communication, or involvement. Only then you should start thinking about the technology to support it. It’s essential to keep in mind that the end-to-end solution is still for and by people. Having the fastest processor doesn’t necessarily result in customers that are happy with your solution.
Agility is another key competence for a Solution Architect. You need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and work with different teams, especially when working on a consulting basis. This is especially true for Agile Architects in today’s ever-changing IT landscape. Architecture used to be one of the first deliverables in a project, set in stone for the remainder of its duration. Now, projects using the Open Agile Architecture™ standard work with an initial architecture that is regularly evaluated throughout the project and might evolve together with the client’s needs and the environment.
5. Bird’s-eye view
As a Solution Architect, you need to be capable of seeing the big picture and understand how all the pieces fit together. This will help you see potential problems and solutions that others may not see. This is where our first competence empathy comes in. If you limit yourself to your own perspective, you will never fully comprehend the project. Correctly analysing the impact of certain changes is essential to both solving the issue and managing the stakeholders’ expectations.
Negotiating is another important skill for a Solution Architect. You need to be able to understand the needs of all the stakeholders and find common ground. This is not something that is generally taught at school, so you will need to learn by doing.
Architecture is a constant balancing exercise for project options. There is almost never a (feasible) perfect solution, so every choice is bound to have some sort of disadvantage to one or more stakeholders. You will have to deal with difficult conversations and navigate the office politics. Thanks to an Agile methodology, you will be able to make those changes throughout the project, instead of all at once.
A Solution Architect needs to have plenty of communication skills. In your daily routine, you need to communicate effectively with clients, team members, and stakeholders. You need to be able to explain complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms, and negotiate win-win solutions for everyone involved. Communication is essential in order to get buy-in from stakeholders and ensure that the solution meets their needs, so make sure that you put it at the forefront of your priorities.
8. Technical know-how
We’ve deliberately put this towards the end of our list. Technical know-how is essential for a Solution Architect, but we are convinced that it is important to think of the other competences first. Still, you need to be in a position where you can understand complex technical problems and find solutions. You also have to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends, which requires commitment and motivation.